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“One Presidential Speech, Many GOP Responses”: There Is No Clear Leadership In The Republican Party

Not too long ago, a president would deliver a State of the Union address… and that was it. Much of the country would see the speech, pundits would talk about it, and either the political world would respond favorably or it wouldn’t.

In the 1960s, Republicans decided it wasn’t entirely fair for a president to have all the fun, and the official State of the Union response was born.

But in the Obama era, as GOP politics went off the deep end, the number of speeches on the big night proliferated. Last year, in addition to President Obama’s actual SOTU, there was an official Republican response, an official Republican Spanish-language response, a Tea Party response, Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) self-indulgent response, and a “prebuttal” from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) because, well, why the heck not.

This year, the fact that Republicans tapped Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) for the party’s official response seemingly negated the need for competing conservative voices – Ernst is, after all, one of the most frighteningly right-wing senators in a generation. Why bother with a Tea Party response if the Republican address will be delivered by arguably the most radical voice in the Senate?

Apparently, that didn’t matter.

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) will deliver the tea party’s response to President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the Tea Party Express announced Thursday.

“2015 marks a year of new beginnings for the Tea Party movement,” Tea Party Express executive director Taylor Budowich said in a statement. “These new Tea Party members of Congress are brimming with ideas to make America economically stronger with opportunity for all to realize the American Dream. We are honored to present Florida Congressman Curt Clawson, the first Tea Party Express victory for the 2014 cycle, as someone committed to making Congress deliver for the American people.”

To appreciate what makes the selection interesting, consider the impression Congressman Clawson has made over the course of his brief, seven-month career on Capitol Hill.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, it was Clawson who spoke to senior officials from the U.S. State Department and Commerce Department during a House Foreign Affairs Committee last July. Despite the fact that the officials are Americans representing the Obama administration – they were even introduced as former aides on the House Foreign Affairs Committee itself – Clawson assumed the Indian-American witnesses were literally officials from India.

“I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” the Florida Republican said. When one of the U.S. officials gently tried to explain that they’re Americans working for the U.S. federal government, Clawson ignored the cues and stuck to his faulty assumptions. He later apologized.

Two weeks ago, Clawson raised eyebrows again, casting a vote for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – yes that Rand Paul – to be Speaker of the House. That the Kentucky senator is not a member of the House apparently didn’t bother the congressman.

And now he’s the guy delivering a response to the State of the Union address, along with Ernst. (Freshman Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) is delivering the Republicans’ Spanish-language response, which will reportedly mirror the substance of Ernst’s speech.)

As we talked about last year at this time, let’s not forget that there used to be one Republican response because the party wouldn’t tolerate any other scenario. GOP lawmakers who deliberately chose to step on – or worse, contradict – their party’s scripted message risked raising the ire of party leaders and insiders. Only one SOTU response was given because no Republican in Congress would dare challenge – or even think to challenge – the party’s message operation.

Those norms have collapsed. “There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist, said last year. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 21, 2015

January 21, 2015 Posted by | GOP, State of the Union, Tea Party | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hating Good Government”: We’re Living In A Political Era In Which Facts Don’t Matter

It’s now official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. You might expect this to be a politically important milestone. After all, climate change deniers have long used the blip of 1998 — an unusually hot year, mainly due to an upwelling of warm water in the Pacific — to claim that the planet has stopped warming. This claim involves a complete misunderstanding of how one goes about identifying underlying trends. (Hint: Don’t cherry-pick your observations.) But now even that bogus argument has collapsed. So will the deniers now concede that climate change is real?

Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.

Before I get into that, let me remind you of some other news that won’t matter.

First, consider the Kansas experiment. Back in 2012 Sam Brownback, the state’s right-wing governor, went all in on supply-side economics: He drastically cut taxes, assuring everyone that the resulting boom would make up for the initial loss in revenues. Unfortunately for his constituents, his experiment has been a resounding failure. The economy of Kansas, far from booming, has lagged the economies of neighboring states, and Kansas is now in fiscal crisis.

So will we see conservatives scaling back their claims about the magical efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus? Of course not. If evidence mattered, supply-side economics would have faded into obscurity decades ago. Instead, it has only strengthened its grip on the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, the news on health reform keeps coming in, and it keeps being more favorable than even the supporters expected. We already knew that the number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates. Now we have evidence that the number of Americans experiencing financial distress due to medical expenses is also dropping fast.

All this is utterly at odds with dire predictions that reform would lead to declining coverage and soaring costs. So will we see any of the people claiming that Obamacare is doomed to utter failure revising their position? You know the answer.

And the list goes on. On issues that range from monetary policy to the control of infectious disease, a big chunk of America’s body politic holds views that are completely at odds with, and completely unmovable by, actual experience. And no matter the issue, it’s the same chunk. If you’ve gotten involved in any of these debates, you know that these people aren’t happy warriors; they’re red-faced angry, with special rage directed at know-it-alls who snootily point out that the facts don’t support their position.

The question, as I said at the beginning, is why. Why the dogmatism? Why the rage? And why do these issues go together, with the set of people insisting that climate change is a hoax pretty much the same as the set of people insisting that any attempt at providing universal health insurance must lead to disaster and tyranny?

Well, it strikes me that the immovable position in each of these cases is bound up with rejecting any role for government that serves the public interest. If you don’t want the government to impose controls or fees on polluters, you want to deny that there is any reason to limit emissions. If you don’t want the combination of regulation, mandates and subsidies that is needed to extend coverage to the uninsured, you want to deny that expanding coverage is even possible. And claims about the magical powers of tax cuts are often little more than a mask for the real agenda of crippling government by starving it of revenue.

And why this hatred of government in the public interest? Well, the political scientist Corey Robin argues that most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure. I’m partial to that story, partly because it helps explain why climate science and health economics inspire so much rage.

Whether this is the right explanation or not, the fact is that we’re living in a political era in which facts don’t matter. This doesn’t mean that those of us who care about evidence should stop seeking it out. But we should be realistic in our expectations, and not expect even the most decisive evidence to make much difference.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 18, 2015

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Federal Government, Health Care | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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